Apparently Pope Francis’s words about pets going to Heaven have been wildly twisted. What he really said was this:
“The pope’s talk to the crowd that day centered on the End Times and the transformation of all creation into a “new heaven” and a “new earth.” Citing St. Paul in the New Testament, Francis said that is not “the annihilation of the cosmos and of everything around us, but the bringing of all things into the fullness of being.”
In other words, in the New Heaven and the New Earth, all of creation will be redeemed, including animals. This is accurate and biblical, from my point of view.
Unfortunately, the Pope’s words were misconstrued, and words were put in his mouth through misleading headlines.
The great part about this whole brouhaha is the conversation that ensued, from social media to mainstream media and beyond. A story was on the cover of The New York Times, and The Humane Society was flooded with calls (not sure how they are going to answer this question, but it shows a high level of interest).
I love this conversation, because people adore their pets, and it hits a nerve. I just spent an hour talking to a hair stylist about her dog and her cat and my pets, and whether or not they will be in Heaven someday. We laughed and teared up and bonded over this conversation, which would have been shut down fast if I had been closed-minded.
What’s the point of that?
It just breaks people’s hearts and makes them less curious, not more curious, about the afterlife. Plus, I honestly believe the Holy Writ is open ended on this, as it is on many things concerning Heaven.
On that note, here’s a short piece I wrote a while back about this very topic. It stars our old dog, Dinah the Basset Hound, who died in 2012 at age 11 or 12.
Enjoy, and please let me know where YOU stand on the issue. Do all dogs go to Heaven?
I never thought of myself as a dog person, until a squirrely basset hound with a heart of gold wiggled her shedding, drooling, barking way into my soul.
I didn’t always sufficiently appreciate Dinah Blue, the one-year-old hound we adopted from a young couple we met in a bookstore one day (they didn’t have room in their apartment for for her).
It was clear from the start that Dinah would never win any beauty contests. She had a “Cherry Eye,” a harmless condition typical to her breed where the pink membrane under the eye pops out. She was stout. She waddled. And Dinah always smelled like a wet dog, even when she was dry. As soon as the “doggy-moon” was over and the novelty wore off, Dinah began to drive me around the bend, with her partiality for knocking over the trash and barking at everything—including dust motes. And that pooch shed enough fur weekly to knit a sweater.
I had a sneaking suspicion I loved her anyway, but didn’t know it for sure until she died at age 12. The grief I felt at her death was intense, a loss way beyond what I would have imagined. Our sweet girl was gone forever. I took it harder than anyone in our family.
As anyone who has lost a pet knows, it’s hard not to think about what happens to our pets when they die. Do they go to Heaven or do they just cease to exist, period? The answer is, it’s impossible to know for sure about our pets, but we do know that there will be animals in the New Earth. Isaiah anticipated an eternal Kingdom of God on earth with wolves, lambs, calves, leopards, yearlings, cows, bears and more creatures (Isaiah 11:6-9).
In Eden, God created animals and “saw that it was good” (Genesis 1:25). In the story of Noah’s Ark, God’s plan and covenant for a renewed, repaired earth after the flood categorically involved animals (Genesis 6:19-20). Could we expect his plan for a redeemed earth after the future judgment to also include animals?
Yes. Animals, like humans, are living beings, and therefore under the promise of restoration in the New Earth. Therefore, it stands to reason that hoping Heaven will have better-smelling basset hounds isn’t just wishful thinking. In the Garden, God gave us animals for our delight and companionship. We know that Heaven will be Eden again, filled with everything good in creation, restored and renewed forever.
As for our pets, we can hope and pray, resting in our Father’s promise of a perfect world with animals in it to provide joy and friendship (and no shedding!)
“If God brings our pets back to life, it wouldn’t surprise me,” Joni Eareckson Tada said. “Heaven is going to be a place that will refract and reflect in as many ways as possible the goodness and joy of our Great God, who delights in lavishing his love on his children.”
Dinah Blue will bark to that!